HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES
© copyright by Rob Ager Dec 2010
HOW DO CORPORATE MEDIA SOURCES DECIDE WHAT IS AND ISN'T A CONSPIRACY THEORY?
We don’t have access to the boardroom discussions of major news sources regarding their coverage of conspiracy theories, but what we can do is look collectively at their news articles. Fortunately, several news sources have saved me a lot of time and effort by compiling and publishing their own lists of what they believe to be the most popular “conspiracy theories”.
Note that these lists contain virtually no examples of conspiracy theories disseminated by governments, corporations or religious institutions – such as the European Witch Hunts, Al Queda sleeper cells, WMDs in Iraq, Iran and North Korea, or the Soviet Communist conspiracy of the cold war. Surely these should rank among the greatest conspiracy theories of all time because of their impact on human history.
The terms “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist” are basically empty catchphrases that have been adopted by major media institutions and filtered down into public awareness. The rules of how the terms are used in news reporting don’t match up with dictionary descriptions of the words “conspiracy” and “theory / theorist” or even the phrase “conspiracy theory”. If the dictionary descriptions were adhered to then the terms would lose their potency in news reporting because they would be applicable to far too many groups of people in far too many contexts. The term “conspiracy theory” if used logically and realistically would be about as useful as the terms “corruption allegation” or “suspected crime”.
What has instead happened with the term “conspiracy theory/theorist” is that it has become a language tool for creating instant polarization in debates of suspected corruption in which the accused is a government or other powerful institution. As soon as the term is used by one or more large media institutions in relation to a suspicion of high level corruption the debate shifts from a discussion of evidence to a discussion about the perceived characters of the people raising concerns of corruption. Because of this simple distortion of language, many important social and political issues have not yet been maturely and intelligently discussed in the limelight of mainstream media attention.
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